Repenting of … repentance?
Slavery in the Jewish world
When the great William Wilberforce challenged the world of its dependence on slavery, and managed by his death to see legislation ban the slave trade from the British empire, he faced many people inside the church and outside it who believed – in all good conscience – that slavery was an acceptable and proper way to treat other human beings.
Early in Jewish history the law of God taught them that temporary slavery should be limited to a seven years maximum; and then a mini-Jubilee year would see the release of all slaves.
In Jeremiah the prophet reveals the fooling message from God:
14 “Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you for six years, you must let them go free.” Your ancestors, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me. 15 Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: each of you proclaimed freedom to your own people. You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name. 16 But now you have turned round and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again.
Slavery was supposed to have been handled in God’s law; yet the people had reneged on their willingness to obey that particular part of God’s law. A national revival meant they had temporarily freed their slaves, as they were already bound to do by the law, but now they have repented of their repentance.
God now offers a fresh deal: he offers the slave owners and the people their freedom to die, since they were unwilling to offer others their freedom to live.
There is something unnerving about the willingness of a people who had changed their minds about a grievous sin, turning back to that failed and foul system.
I wonder is there something similar happening when I or you, as followers of Christ, turn back to sin when we have once repented. Yes there is.
In Advent we continue to reflect on our walk with Christ in preparation for his return.